BANGKOK (AP) — The Thai prime minister on Wednesday proposed the formation of a reform council to mollify a protest movement seeking to topple her government, but demonstrators immediately rejected her idea.
Yingluck Shinawatra's announcement allowed her to portray herself as being committed to reconciliation with her foes, who are vowing to step up their ongoing civil disobedience to disrupt elections scheduled on Feb. 2.
The developments only served to highlight the seeming intractable nature of a crisis that is splitting the country and paralyzing governance. The longer the stalemate the more chance of serious street violence and a military coup.
Yingluck said the council would not be a government body, and its 499 members would be appointed by an independent commission, including the commander of the armed forces, business and academic leaders and economists. It would be tasked with amending the constitution and addressing corruption and money in politics and ensuring electoral reform.
Akanat Promphan, a spokesman for the protesters, said any proposal that allowed Yingluck to stay in power or carry out the elections, which her party is seen as sure to win, was unacceptable. He said the council as proposed would be under the influence of Yingluck.
"It is certain that she will interfere with the proposed council," he told media.
Yingluck made the announcement in Bangkok, the main power center of the protest movement. She has not been in the capital since Sunday. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister, has called on followers to prevent her from working and living in the capital by besieging her home and government buildings.
Thailand has been wracked by sometimes violent political conflict since Yingluck's brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled by a 2006 military coup. The protesters accuse Yingluck of being a proxy for Thaksin, who lives in self-imposed exile to avoid jail time for a corruption conviction but still wields influence in the country.
Thaksin or his allies have won every election since 2001 thanks to strong support in the north and northeast of the country. His supporters say he is disliked by Bangkok's elite because he has shifted power away from the traditional ruling class.